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Crunch time looms for Trump’s new Nafta


Signed by Canada, Mexico and the US more than seven months
ago, the new Nafta agreement isn’t so new anymore. But it may be close to
grabbing the spotlight again.

With the US-China trade war on autopilot, the White House is
shifting attention back to Nafta’s replacement — known as the USMCA — and more
specifically how to get the pact approved by the Democrat-led House.

Not everyone in the Trump administration agrees on how hard
to push.

On one side, Vice President Mike Pence’s staff and others
are exasperated with the slow pace at which Democrats are demanding changes and
offering solutions. Those officials see one way forward: force a vote on the
revamped North American trade pact as soon as this month.

Next Tuesday is the first day Trump can send the USMCA
implementing legislation to Congress, starting the clock for lawmakers to take
it up.

On the other side, officials including US Trade
Representative Robert Lighthizer don’t feel a particular urgency to ram a vote
through Congress. But his continued patience will require some clear evidence
that Democrats are seriously engaged.

Congressional staffers caution that sending the legislation
before Speaker Nancy Pelosi gives the green light would only cause delay. She
wants to do minor surgery to the agreement before Democrats sign on. Too much
stonewalling, though, might provoke Trump to give notice he’s withdrawing the US
from the existing Nafta. The US traded more than $1.2trn in goods with its two
closest neighbors last year.

Mexico has already ratified the pact, and Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau has signaled Canada’s approval process is aligned with
Washington’s. So the US political calendar could dictate the next steps. With
no end in sight for a deal with China, Trump will want to hail his US-Mexico-Canada-Agreement
as a major trade victory as he campaigns for re-election next year.




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